Career ladder: Inch, 60, earned a bachelor's degree in finance in 1978 and an MBA in finance in 1984 from Eastern Michigan University. Starting her career with Ford Motor Co. in 1978 as an industrial relations analyst, she has held a variety of finance roles for the Dearborn-based automaker, including global commercial vans, global compact pickup trucks, engineering analysis, business planning, parts pricing and others. More recently, she was manager of worldwide revenue and manager of North American truck pricing from 1998 to 2000; controller of Ford marketing and sales from 2000 to 2004; and finance director for the Ford Customer Service Division from 2004 to 2010. In January 2010, Ford appointed her chairman and CEO of its real estate division, Ford Land.
Power metrics: Inch leads Ford Land, which owns 71 buildings totaling about 13.1 million square feet in and around Dearborn and Allen Park. She also heads the automaker's $1 billion-plus plan over the next 10 years to modernize its 63-year-old research and engineering hub in Dearborn. The plans are as grand as they are expensive. Autonomous vehicles, on-demand shuttles and eBikes will be tested on the site, which is also planned to include a new 700,000 square-foot-plus design center with new studios and an outdoor design courtyard. Phase two includes reworking about 1.3 million square feet of the Ford World Headquarters building. Those plans include connecting Ford Motor Credit Co. to the headquarters; improved connectivity, walkways, covered parking decks and recreation areas like softball diamonds and soccer fields; and enhanced green spaces. There would also be a Sustainability Showcase building to produce more energy than it uses. This overhaul requires moving 30,000 employees from 70 buildings and into the Silicon Valley-like campus locations in the automaker's home city. Ford Land is currently in the beginning stages of construction, largely revolving around infrastructure and things like parking lots. "We have to get the vehicles off, vacate a lot of this massive surface parking we have in order to start the first construction. It's a really tricky sequencing thing."
Secret weapon: Empathy. "I understand where people are coming from. The more you understand that, the more you can develop strategies or proposals that they would buy into or be agreeable to."
What defines a powerful or influential woman in today's business world, particularly in Detroit: "In order to develop a situation where you have influence, for me it's always been a couple things: One, I learn everything I can about the business and what I'm involved in because knowledge is power. The other piece is being in a position to develop good relationships and trust with your colleagues, and it takes some time to develop those kind of trust relationships."
Advice to women in the automotive field: Work hard and learn everything you need to learn. "Success doesn't come from just showing up," she said. "I always liked that quote by Henry Ford: 'Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right.' If you think you can do it, you can. You just have to plot out how you get there."
How the role of women in the workplace has changed: "Women weren't always helping women. We've improved on that a lot. It's helping others; it's working together."
Jennette SmithHere's how we produced this special section.
Jennette SmithWe view all of our honorees over the years as part of a "legacy list," some of whom should be considered as prospects for corporate and nonprofit board service.
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Sherri WelchThe new study by Grand Valley State University of Fortune 500 boards shows a correlation between board diversity and healthier profits, and Michigan companies have ample opportunity to improve board diversity, the study's co-author says.
Staff Blog | Jennette SmithI've been living and breathing this project for months and got by with a little help from my friends in the newsroom and at companies across the state.
Staff Blog | Mary KramerThat's why Crain's Detroit Business has joined with the Michigan Women's Commission and Deloitte, among others, to create a path to help more companies find talent for their boards.
Crain's Detroit BusinessIn an effort to boost women's representation on for-profit corporate boards, Crain's Detroit Business on Tuesday night launched the Michigan Women's Directory. The launch coincided with the 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan recognition event that was attended by about 700 people.